Friend of the blog @resound listened to today’s Backhand Shelf podcast and pointed out that we missed someone when naming the best free agent signings from the summer: Mike Smith.

He’s right, of course, but it got me thinking – with Bryzgalov struggling and Smith being off to a terrific start, how much credit does Dave Tippett and the Coyotes players deserve for putting his goalies is a position to shine?

In two words: a lot.

And I’m not saying that to take away from Mike Smith – he’s done everything that’s been asked of him, and done it well.

So far Smith has a .926 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.36. He’s 6-2-2 in ten starts. After posting a .899 save percentage with a 2.90 goals-against last year, I’d say things are looking pretty peachy.

It’s not that he isn’t seeing shots either - he’s just not seeing as many dangerous ones. That makes it easier to get into a rythym earlier in games, and keeps the stress level to a minimum throughout them.

Dave Tippett has his usual bunch of undertalented (by NHL standards), hard-working players who’ve bought into their coach’s systems.

They know they can’t run and gun as well as other teams, they know they’re not built for big comebacks, so they stick to their guns. They keep pucks to the perimeter as much as possible, clog up the dangerous areas with traffic, and force the opposition to come through them if they hope to get a good look.

The discipline of every team who plays for Tippett is phenomenal. He’s got the right demeanor, he’s smart, and he knows how to succeed when you don’t necessarily have all that right tools.

As Smith’s confidence continues to climb (nothing scarier than a 6’4″ goalie with confidence), the goalie who left that same crease for park-ier pastures has seen the opposite happen in the early going.

After 11 starts, Ilya Bryzgalov is sporting an .894 save percentage (with a number of notable weak ones) and a 2.94 goals against average.

For a guy coming off a year where he posted a .921 and a 2.48, something seems to be up.

He’s actually seeing less shots than Smith is, but they aren’t coming from the places he’s used to. He’s a great goalie who’s likely to adjust sooner or later here, but I doubt we’ll see him look as good as he did in Phoenix. Philly just has too many risk-takers to think he’s not going to see a couple primo scoring opportunities every night.

So for Smith, he’s won the golden ticket - he gets to play for a Dave Tippett coached team. I think he’ll be feeling pretty good about that, and I see no reason to expect his numbers to drop off.